80 Days and Counting

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November 22nd, 2016.

That’s a day I’ll keep in mind for awhile.  For most people, it’s just a day like any other.  It’s not a holiday or someone’s birthday or anniversary.  It’s just another day really.

Only it’s not for me – It’s the day I quit smoking.

Well, sort of.

Some might say that I’ve just swapped once vice for a new one, as I’m now using a Vape e-cigarette instead of actually smoking.  But to me, it’s just a stepping stone to actually becoming smoke-free in the future after about 25 years of it.  I hope.

It hasn’t been a walk in the park, to say the least.  I really loved the act of smoking (though not necessarily the smell of them).  That first drag off of a badly needed cigarette was absolutely bliss, almost orgasmic.  And the cravings for the act of smoking itself has been almost frenzied at times.

But I’m getting there, one day at a time.

For some reason, after the weekend previous to the above date, something in me snapped.  Just the thought of having a cigarette made me cringe with disgust.  For the first time in my life.

smoking12This change was two-fold as far as I could tell.

Firstly, like most people, it easily had to do with money.  Since April, I’d mostly been smoking duty-free cigarettes I’d purchased from abroad or friends had picked them up for me on their travels.

Basically, the thought of going back to paying UK prices for cigarettes made me cringe.  And with recent/new regulations, it meant things were just going to get more expensive.

But mostly I think it had to do with a (naked) house party I’d attended that weekend.

At one point during the party, I was chatting with a few guys near the garden door as I faffed with the host’s bathrobe (garden was overlooked, and it was easier than finding my clothes upstairs).  And perhaps it was just my imagination, but there seemed to be a sense of pity from them about the lengths I was going to have a cigarette.

I suddenly felt desperate and slightly pathetic about it all.  And I suddenly wondered why the hell I was still doing this to myself after two and a half decades… and just thinking about that length of time really pulled me up short.  It was quite jarring to suddenly realise I had been smoking for more than half my life.

Fucking hell…

So that Monday morning, I only had 1 cigarette left in my pack which I smoked on my way to work.  And I had absolutely no desire to buy another .. though I did bum a couple smokes off of a colleague that day to get me through.

Instead I’d decided I’d give vaping a try for a bit, and went to the local vape shop near my flat to see what options there were.  I’d heard of many people who’d turned to vaping and seemed to be doing quite well.  The model I’d decided on was out of stock, so had to come back the next evening.

So I bought my last 10 pack of cigarettes on my way home, purposely choosing a brand I didn’t normally smoke or enjoy.

vape-penAnd so far, after just over 80 days of not smoking, I’m still going strong and have only had 2 cigarettes since – one Christmas Eve, and one on a night out with colleagues when we were quite drunk.

And interestingly, neither cigarette made me want to buy a pack or start smoking again.  That alone is a good sign.

But there has been a down side as well… I’ve been gaining weight like crazy since quitting. And as a bigger guy already, it was something I didn’t need.

I had hoped by switching to the vape that the weight gain could have been prevented, and that perhaps I would start getting a bit more active.  But unfortunately, the on-and-off-again foot/ankle/knee issues I’ve been having since coming back from Canada in October haven’t helped at all.

In fact, it’s made me quite lazy.

So now here I am, more than 80 days later, and I’m having to work on my health issues alongside my pseudo non-smoking habits (I don’t really use the vape that much some days).  I don’t necessarily eat that badly most days, but it’s more about the quantities and the lack of exercise.

And I definitely had a shock upon weighing myself last week… I’ve topped out at almost 21 stone (that’s around 300 lbs or 130 kg… fuck 😦 ).

So… now I’ve started to watch my caloric intake and make myself walk a bit every day, even part way to work/home a few times a week.  And I’ve signed up for the free ‘gym & swim’ card at my local council’s leisure centre that will allow me to use the facilities in the afternoons on the weekends and any time on Fridays.

Hopefully with these little changes, things can improve somewhat.  I’m sure a part of my recent lack of feeling social has a lot to do with this, and each have impacted the other.

Oh and hopefully I can lose a few pounds before my next holiday in Gran Canaria.. I’m fairly comfortable in just my skin and all, but not when I’m feeling like a beached-whale. 😉

Close up of bare chested man holding scissors and squeezing stomach

Close up of bare chested man holding scissors and squeezing stomach

 

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Sleep Naked for a Healthier You

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What’s your sleeping ritual?  Is there something you must wear to feel comfortable enough to get a good night’s sleep, or are you more comfortable sleeping in your birthday suit?

Apparently sleeping in the nude is actually healthier for you and can improve certain areas of your life.. and not just your sex life either!

According to a couple of sites, approximately 8% of Americans sleep naked, whereas nearly a quarter of British adults are more likely to sleep naked.

So what are the benefits, and how can tossing the pj’s help us all?

Reduces insomnia

men naked sleepingAccording to a recent sleep study, when you wear heavy pyjamas or socks your body can’t release the heat necessary to drop your core body temperature to initiate sleep normally.

This inability of your body to release heat could cause insomnia, whereas sleeping naked allows the heat to release easier, which leads to you falling asleep faster.

This in-bed body temperature regulation may also help you achieve a deeper, longer sleep, which would result in feeling more refreshed upon waking and better to approach the coming day.

Prevents excess belly fat

Now, don’t get too excited!  This isn’t about some quick-slim diet secret, but instead is how sleeping naked helps you lower your cortisol levels. Cortisol functions to increase blood sugar through gluconeogenesis, to suppress the immune system, and to aid in the metabolism of fat, protein, and carbohydrate. (Source: Wikipedia)

Basically, deep sleep lowers cortisol levels to a minimum, then the glands that produce it work more actively to prepare the body for the next day, helping you feel energised when you wake up.  And when you don’t sleep properly, you wake with abnormally high cortisol levels, which stimulates your appetite for comfort foods that increase belly fat.

Healthier sex organs

Not only will will sleeping naked help your sex life, it’ll also help your sexual organs themselves.  It allows your skin and body parts to breathe and get exposed to free flowing air.

For women, it can prevent the growth of yeast and bacteria, while for men it helps keeping testes cooler which in turn keeps sperm healthy and the reproductive systems working normally.  When men wear tight briefs or restrictive clothing (in or out of bed), it can heat up the testes and lower their sperm count.

Prevents aging

According to some studies, sleep can trigger the release of growth hormones and melatonin, which are vital anti-aging hormones.  Which means the better you sleep, the more of these hormones you’ll produce, which in the end will help slow down the aging process.  And who doesn’t want to do that?

Increases skin-to-skin contact

When you have more skin to skin contact with your partner, it can release a boost of oxytocin in your body.  This ‘feel-good’ hormone is powerful, helps your orgasmic and sexual responsiveness, helps deal with stress, combat depression, reducing intestinal inflammation, and reducing blood pressure.

And obviously, when not sleeping alone, it removes any obstacles and encourages more sexual contact between you.  And that’s never a bad thing.

naked men in bed

Prevents skin diseases

Wet, restricted skin could lead to an increased risk for certain skin diseases like athlete’s foot or Intertrigo.  Which is why it’s important to all the skin all over your body to breathe, especially in areas like your feet, armpits or genitals.

Prevents type 2 Diabeties

According to a study published in the June edition of Diabetes, it was found that sleeping in the nude helped participants improve their health, with unhealthy fat starting to disappear within a few weeks.  The study found the colder temperatures when sleeping nude were linked to improving metabolisms, lowering blood sugar levels and even preventing type 2 Diabetes.

How amazing is that?

Improves blood flow.

Wearing restrictive clothing in bed – twisted t-shirts, tight socks, elastic bands around your waist – could cut off your circulation and restrict the body’s blood flow.  Sleeping naked will allow it to flow more freely and increase circulation, which in turn benefits the heart, muscles, and arteries as more oxygen-rich blood flows to your extremities.

Improves self-esteem and acceptance

cute bear sleepingGrowing up, most of us were taught that being naked was wrong or indecent, or even going so far to make us believe that the naked body is an ugly, unnatural thing.  Which is where a lot of body dismorphia could stem from, not to mention low self-esteem and low self-worth.

The more time you spend in the nude, regardless if it is alone or among others, the more comfortable you will feel in your own skin and more accepting of your body as it truly is, instead of the media’s ideals.

And the more confident you are in your skin, the happier you’ll be and you’ll appear more attractive to others.

So… why not boost your own health and sleep naked already.  It’s clearly so much better for you. 😉

This post was inspired by — 10 Reasons Why People Who Like Sleeping Naked Are Healthier People.

The Health of Stress

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We all have stress in our lives, and we all tend to manage it differently to both good and bad results.  stressLike most people, when I’m feeling particularly stressed, it seems my overall health tends to decline regardless of how well I’m taking care of myself.  Which is most likely due to me not wanting to actually deal with the stress that I’m feeling at the time.

For instance, I’ve been feeling stressed lately about work because I’m not in a position I would like to be, and because of that, how I’m struggling somewhat financially.  This has caused me to suffer from stress headaches all week leading to insomnia, resulting in me missing a few days of work.. which in turn makes me stress about going back to work.

It’s a vicious circle that I’m desperate to break free from.

But what if the stress we’re feeling could actually be beneficial to our lives, as well as our health?  And not just beneficial to ourselves, but to those around us?

Apparently, it’s not stress that’s making us sicker, it’s stressing out about stress being stressful that’s actually the problem.

That’s the main message given by health psychologist Kelly McGoinigal in a talk she gave for Ted.com back in June 2013 on how to make stress our friend (clip is at bottom of page).

Stress. It makes your heart pound, your breathing quicken and your forehead sweat. But while stress has been made into a public health enemy, new research suggests that stress may only be bad for you if you believe that to be the case. Psychologist Kelly McGonigal urges us to see stress as a positive, and introduces us to an unsung mechanism for stress reduction: reaching out to others.

It’s definitely a different way of looking on how we all deal with stress in our lives, as most of us (myself included) tend to shut down and agonize over how we’re going to get through this particular bad patch in our lives, instead of looking for a way through it.

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But it’s also about making sure when you’re feeling particularly stressed that you’re reaching out to those around you to talk about what’s making you feel stressed.  We’ve all heard the stories of people who’ve been super stressed out and because they haven’t wanted to ‘bother’ anyone else with their problems, they’ve gotten sick or had heart problems (ie: a heart attack).

By ensuring you are reaching out to others to discuss the problems you’re going through, it allows you to relieve a lot of that stress you’re feeling.  But as well, by reaching out and being there for someone who’s feeling stressed, it also allows you help reduce stress in your own lives.

stress_weightgainIt seems like such a simple concept when you think on it, but yet not a lot of us implement it into our own lives.

Instead we all talk about planning some holiday or taking some time off work to ‘unwind’, or even focusing so much on getting to the weekend so they can ‘de-stress’.  Basically, we’re all so busy looking for better ways to relax that we’re not focusing on relieving the stress itself.

As Ms McGonigal says in her talk, “When you change your mind about stress, you can change your body’s response to stress.”

So take a few moments to watch the below clip and see how looking at stress differently could change your own lives, and hopefully help improve your health in the long run.

I know I’ll be trying my best to look at things differently from now on.

Note: For anyone interested in the transcripts of this talk, they can be found HERE.

When Will This End…

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Those who’ve been popping by my blog fairly regularly have probably noticed a distinct lack of posts in the past few weeks.

Well, without meaning to, I’ve taken a it of a break.. This was neither planned nor desired to be honest.

writers-blockI just couldn’t think of anything to write about.  Or more accurately, I didn’t have the drive or desire to write about stuff going on at the moment.

I had ideas of what I wanted to write about, but couldn’t bring myself to actually put pen to paper.. or in my case, fingers to keyboard.

Most of the issues I’m having in real life easily stem from my lack of work.. and the anxiety, depression and lack of self-esteem that comes along with it.  As it stands right now, I’m now in my 9th month of unemployment.. And I have no clue when this will end.

And end it has to, one way or another, because I can’t keep going on like I am.  Due to a lack of income, I have no life and am constantly scrounging to save as many pennies as I can.  I could go into further detail about my financial issues, but I’d rather not.  Some things should stay private, I think.

Because of these feelings I’ve been having over the past while, I went and saw my doctor who ended up prescribing me something to help my moods and feelings of hopelessness.

And it is this prescription that has been making me feel completely .. flat.  In the 3+ weeks I’ve been on this medication, I can honestly say I feel absolutely no passion or desire for anything I actually enjoy, and instead spend most days just marking time, waiting for something to happen, like a call about a job.

Not much of a life, if you ask me.

And don’t get me started on how it’s completely killed my sex drive.  😦

But when I went for a follow up the other day, the doctor decided that perhaps feeling ‘flat’ was better than always feeling down… and extended the prescription for another couple months.

The only other suggestion she gave was to exercise more as this will help me feel better.. Which I was expecting after I noticed a fairly significant sad-man-2look from her at my belly.  As if losing a bit of weight will solve my job issues..

I don’t know.. perhaps some exercise would be a good thing, weight aside.  It would at least give me a reason to get out of the house on a regular basis.  And there are only so many times you can just ‘go for a walk’.

As it stands right now, I barely leave the flat at all these days.. mostly cause I generally just have nowhere to be.  My few good friends are well aware of my financial issues, so tend to not invite me out anymore.  Which leaves me sitting at home doing nothing all day, every day.

Or when they do invite me out, I feel bad.. like I’m a charity case or something.  I’m probably over thinking their reasons for buying me a drink or having me over for dinner..

I do try to get out for a bit every couple days, usually to just sit in the park and read or down by the Thames River.  I know there are free things you can do in London.. but it’s not as fun by yourself, especially if you’re limited to something within walking distance so you don’t spend money on transport.

reading on bench*Sigh*

It’s been a very very long time since I’ve found myself in this kind of situation, probably close to 10 years now.

I just really need for this to change asap.. I want to get back to living my life, the way I want to live it.  To have that freedom of being able to go to the movies or out for dinner and now having to worry if it’ll ruin my budget for the week/month.

I really need to get back to just being me again.

*fingers crossed*